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City Hall Confidential

Submitted by on 1, January 21, 2011 – 12:03 am4 Comments

Golf back on the Tee

Golf in Alameda will be back on the agenda next week, when the City Council holds a special meeting regarding KemperSports’ proposal for the Chuck Corica Golf Complex and the Mif Albright course. Meanwhile, the growing pains of transitioning from a municipally-run complex to a municipally-owned, privately-run complex continue.

At the beginning of the year, Golf Commission members learned that they had lost their reserved parking spaces at the complex. In a January 9 letter to Acting City Manager Lisa Goldman, Golf Commission chair Jane Sullwold said she wasn’t aware of the change until she arrived at the course and found the spots occupied and their plaques removed.

Sullwold also questioned a decision to allow city staffers to forgo Golf Commission meetings, saying that no one with knowledge of course operations is attending commission meetings anymore – a move that leaves the city’s legally required oversight committee with little ability to advise the City Council. Sullwold said that Recreation and Park Director Dale Lillard stopped attending commission meetings after Kemper took the reins in December 2008. Earlier this month, Lillard wrote KemperSports excusing their employees from attending commission meetings as well, Sullwold wrote.

“Without anyone from either the city or KemperSports in attendance at Golf Commission meetings, how is the Golf Commission expected to comply with the duties assigned to it under the municipal code?” Sullwold wrote. “We are supposed to inform ourselves about the operations of the courses, but henceforth will not be getting any reports from those who are running the place, or from the city that hired them.”

In her January 11 response, Goldman explained that KemperSports will provide written reports to the commission and listen to audio tapes of all meetings, responding to any commission questions in writing as well.

Several city insiders said there’s a perception that Golf Commission meetings have become heated recently, with city staff feeling that KemperSports employees are being treated disrespectfully. That perception led staff to recommend that KemperSports employees not attend meetings, and to instead provide their input and response in writing only.

Asked about the issue, Sullwold said she couldn’t think of any instance in the past 12 months that would lead to this perception. And she said that the decisions have left the commission with no staff support at all. On Wednesday night, their first meeting of the new year, “we sat around twiddling our thumbs with no one to ask questions of,” said Sullwold.

More to come. In the meantime, Kemper is expected to present two scenarios for continued operation of the course – one for two full 18-hole courses and another for a 27-hole configuration – to the council on Tuesday night at City Hall.

Highsmith saga continues

The San Francisco Chronicle covered the ongoing city attorney saga over the weekend, scoring an interview with Teresa Highsmith in which she acknowledged that she would not be resigning as Alameda’s city attorney despite having accepted a job as interim city attorney in Barstow. Highsmith’s contract allows her to work up to 10 hours per month in “teaching, consulting, speaking, or other non-city business” without the prior consent of the Alameda City Council.

Since Barstow contracts out their city attorney position, Highsmith will be fulfilling the duties defined in the city’s contract with Colantuono & Levin, the contract firm. However, the contract requires that C&L “provide attorneys on-site for up to 12 hours per month as requested by the city manager.” Fulfilling this contractual obligation in Barstow would require Highsmith to have requested the council’s consent, something several high-placed officials, who asked not to be identified because they’re concerned about potential legal action, have said has not occurred.

Highsmith was not in Barstow on Tuesday for that council’s first meeting since her appointment in December. Sitting in Highsmith’s seat instead was C&L’s head honcho, Michael Colantuono, who is also Barstow’s former city attorney. Reached for comment this week, Barstow Councilman Willie Hailey Sr. said that the council had not been briefed on Highsmith’s absence on Tuesday night.


  • Scott says:

    Can anyone make sense of what is happening at Chuck Corica Golf course?

    • Marilyn Schumacher says:

      Non-sense…it’s business as usual regardless of who oversees it or runs it. It’s been that way for the last 13 years since my late husband and I took up golf. The city has milked it to death rather than making necessary capital improvements, unlike most reasonable owners who would protect their asset. The city literally stole its profits and tossed them into the general fund year after year.

      It’s now a diamond in the rough (literally, the rough – the side edges of the fairway for non-golfers). It is a true salvageable treasure, and needs strong leadership to get it on course (course – what golfers play on, for non-golfers).

      Leadership involves huge transparency by the city and the vendor AND the golf commission. The course got dumped into Parks and Rec but it’s hard to blame Lillard for something given to the dept when he has no background in golf management.

      Parking spaces for the golf commission? Those should have been taken away a long, long time ago. Get over it. Overall I think it’s another example of city elected officials asking for citizens to sit on committees and then just ignoring most if not all the recommendations that committees makes.

      Don’t even get me going on how this town makes appointments to boards, commissions, committees, etc.

  • Jon Spangler says:

    Having city or Kemper staff attend Golf Commission meetings ought to be standard operating procedure. There is no other “normal” or acceptable way to support a duly constituted city commission.

    Even at its lowest/worst days (with only one or two commissioners remaining, far short of its full 7 members) the Transportation Commission was always supported by at least one staffer who actually knew something about transportation.

    I hope the City Council straightens out the errant staff decisions next week and directs city staff and Kemper to send the appropriate staffers to each and every Golf Commission meeting. This oddball and shortsighted policy looks and feels like an ancient artifact of the previous administration, under which there appeared to be a deliberate attempt to end accessible and educational golf entirely in Alameda…

    Kemper, being a private company and (presumably) interested in pleasing its customers as well as keeping its contract, ought to be happy to provide whatever the Golf Commission members desire…Or are the days of “the customer always comes first” long gone at Kemper, too?

  • Jon Spangler says:

    Tonight the Council decided to bring this matter back on February 16 or March 2 (TBD).
    This is in order to give the CC, Golf Commission members (with or without a GC meeting), the Alameda Junior Golf Association, and other parties time to see and digest the in-depth financial feasibility analyses that Kemper said they had provided to Interim City Manager Ann Marie Gallant in June or July of 2010. (Apparently no one other than the ICM has ever seen those numbers and reports since then.)

    The AGJA and other golfers were really upset that Kemper’s presentation and their backup numbers have not been available for public review: they were all reacting instantaneously to a powerpoint presentation that lacked any detailed analysis or background info, and from which the CC was supposed to decide on either a 27-hole or 36-hole option.

    having seen kemper’s presentation tonight I suspect that their analysis and recommendations are not the only viable options that could be developed for Alameda’s golf courses. (And I don’t even play golf…:-)

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